Not too long ago, a new comment showed up for my column entitled, "Life After Analysis: The Five-Month Mark." That's where a time-sensitive reader started off their remarks with this observation: “David, it's now more than two years since you stopped your analysis. Can you please write a retrospective?”
Right they are—it's been a while since I embarked from my sessions with Ms. Analyst. And this span is far longer than I ever intended to go without writing an update on what has followed for me.
The delay has not been due to negligence nor a lack of material. I've thought about following up all the time, and there's plenty to say—and maybe that's been part of the problem: in describing the constantly unfolding mental landscape that I've experienced post-therapy, where to start?
Fortunately, that kind reader supplied me with no less than eight questions after that, each one a handy conversation starter that could be the basis of an entire column apiece. Each one is a stimulating query. I'll do my best to answer them here, and to keep posting more consistently in the future.
Can you see exactly how your life got changed by that analysis?
Absolutely, yes I can. There are far too many changes to list, but I think the most important one is the ability I've gained to understand my issues as they unfold, get on top of them, and to take the appropriate action.
Before my analysis, I was only vaguely self-aware of psychological cycles as they drove me. If I was distressed, the root cause was often impossible to uncover. Now when I feel the urge to act up, or simply start heading to a dark place, I have a finely honed toolkit that allows me to start enacting a fix.
I understand so well now that my self is a system—if something feels wrong in one place, then other interrelated areas require investigation. And 99% of the time, I know exactly where to look.
My sex addiction—and I came to realize in analysis, to my utter shock, that that is what I was dealing with—remains a force that I must wrestle with. But I know 100% what it takes to win that fight. I can deal now in a way now that’s alert, constructive and self-scientific—instead of coping in forms that bring on confusion and chaos.
That alone is a life-changer.
Compared to people who have had success in shorter term therapy, do you think you've had "deeper" change?
That's an interesting question, but it's the only one put forth that I don't think I can answer. As they say on those weight-loss commercials: Your results may vary!
I can only say that my own change was very deep. Early on in my therapy, I could physically feel my brain rewiring as it made important new connections, re-engineered itself, and healed from what Ms. Analyst would call "ancient" wounds.
Change on that scale takes a long time—a great dyad such as the one I enjoyed with Ms. Analyst makes that move faster, but there's no way I can see that happening overnight. I "disembarked” exactly 4 years after I began. That's how long it took me to get through high school. That's how long it took me to get through college. It felt like the perfect term for my psychoanalysis as well—not a moment too late, not a moment too soon.
Would you do it again?
Absolutely and without question. Like many other things that I invested huge amounts of time and effort into—like learning to play the drums, or starting my own business—looking back I can't believe I had the tenacity, patience and strength to see it through.
In my opinion, if that's how you feel in retrospect about a difficult process that you undertook, then undergoing it has proven to be a wise decision.
Would you do it if you had to pay full fee instead of the reduced rate your analyst charged?
If Ms. Analyst had not generously provide me with a reduced rate, there is no way I could have seen her three times per week for 2.5 years as I did.
I'm sure that seeing her once a week for four years would have paid off. But the higher frequency not only made my gains come faster, but with greater depth and utility.
I think it's worth noting that the cosmic gift of 3X week psychoanalysis that she gave me access to had a trade-off. Due to this, I found that I often had trouble fully expressing feelings of hurt, disappointment, rage, and frustration that I would sometimes feel towards her—all perfectly healthy emotions in the context of the therapist-analysand dynamic.
Basically, I did not feel right about lashing out at someone that was treating me with such perceived generosity (although, no doubt she felt she had something to gain by having me around). I wouldn't go so far as to say that this wrinkle got in the way, but it affected the dynamic in a manner that wouldn’t have been present had I simply been paying her "book" rate.
On the other hand, I knew other clients of other psychoanalysts who were affected because they felt they were paying too much for their sessions. If you feel like you’re getting hosed by your therapist, that can be a problem too.
The financial angle will always prove to be a tricky element in psychoanalysis, as long as the client directly pays the therapist. Maybe in other countries/cultures, this doesn’t have to be an issue at all—and that’s probably a great thing.
Have you checked-in with your analyst?
For a while, I did! I sent Ms. Analyst three hand-written letters updating her, with the last one going out to her one year after our last session. Writing the letters by hand, instead of typing them, was important to me—it felt like it mirrored the free-flow, in-the-moment aspirations of when I would verbally free associate during our sessions.
At the year mark, as I prepared to send Ms. Analyst another note, I realized shortly before I put pen to paper that that needed to be the last update I wrote to her. I left when I did because I felt I was ready. Although sending her letters seemed to be an appropriate denouement following four intensive years together, I felt that doing it for too long would undercut the argument I had passionately made when we negotiated my disembarkment: that I was qualified to stand on my own.
I let her know in my final letter that none others would follow, because, “This feels like the next stage in my disembarkment, and because it feels right.” That latter point is actually the most important – detaching fully at that point did feel right. It was another extension of my liberation, my graduation, my evolution. A process that continues to this day.
What's your sense on the charge that "there was more work to be done?" Two years out, was it true?
I was sure it was the right time to leave when I disembarked. Meanwhile, Ms. Analyst was resolute that there was more work to be done—a deeper understanding of my self to be had.
I think it’s beautiful that we were both exactly right.
Ms. Analyst was right because, to both of ours frustration, the real roots of my addiction were never satisfactorily uncovered. We tracked down the who, what, where, and when with patience, empathy, and determination. But the real why was almost as massive a mystery as when I first walked in her door.
Perhaps with her continued assistance, and additional years of analysis, we would have gotten all the way to the heart of the matter. But the pressures from my life outside of the psychoanalytic pod had become too great to afford us that luxury—we had reached the point where the practical benefits of my remaining in analysis no longer outweighed those of departing.
Yes, we could have gone ever deeper together. But it's important to note that even though I no longer work on my issues in the same room with Ms. Analyst, our collaboration together has most definitely continued. Not only am I constantly using the tools that she helped me construct to battle back my fiercest demons, but also to manage the highs and lows brought on by everyday issues, frustrations, and victories.
When an event occurs requiring psychological attention, I'm mentally transported right back into our space together: there I am on the couch, venting about the latest injustice, or perhaps proudly updating her on my most recent gains. After four years of cooperating in real life, I now have a virtual pressure valve that provides instantaneous relief, whenever I need it.
In that sense, I can count on our shared journey to continue for the rest of my life. And it's not just about coping, but consistently becoming better. Equipped as I am with my custom mental toolkit, I can observe, analyze, and upgrade myself far more effectively than if I'd never set foot in her suite.
And did it really matter?
I entered into therapy with one basic goal: to not let my issues—unrecognizable as they were to me at the time—destroy my family, and subsequently, me.
What could matter more than that?
My decision to enter psychoanalysis, and see it through from beginning to end has mattered to the extreme: because it has helped me to achieve that goal, although not in the way I was originally hoping. Early on I expected that therapy/analysis would cure me, but I understand now that addiction often doesn’t get cured, any more often than studious meditation leads inevitably to nirvana.
Instead, at the least my analysis has allowed me to keep it all together when life is at maximum difficulty. And when the pressure is off, my time in analysis is constantly healing me, paving the way for ever-better self-awareness, helping me to help others as best I can, and clearing the path for what I define as success.
Have I filled you in? As I said, I could write an entire column on each of the questions above, so if my kind reader who asked them—or anyone else—wants to know more, don’t hesitate to ask. And thanks for caring: I’m glad to be sharing once again.
-- Mr. Analysand